Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Donutting

Sunday, June 4th, 2017

Emma reached double-figures last week and, conveniently, the school had scheduled an Inset day so that she and her friends (and Duncan!) could celebrate by going donutting at the dry ski-slope in Southampton. They all had a whale of a time although, with the requirement to wear helmets and full body cover, frequent refreshment stops were required in the midday sun. (Also, drag lifts require a little more effort when you’re not actually wearing skis!)

Thankfully the chalet where party tea was held offered plenty of shade. The activity also made a good theme for the cake although I think I put about as much effort into constructing a sloping stand as actually decorating the cake itself! Once we’d seen everyone back home we packed up the car and joined the Bank Holiday traffic for a weekend of camping near Corfe Castle.

Lite Weekend of Running

Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

 We had a fun Bank Holiday weekend in South Wales competing in the OMM Lite. Christine and I were entered on the Long Score with her Mum having offered to mind the children at the event centre in Cwm-du, nestled in the Black Mountains. The Lite is significant as the event is quite different from the OMM itself. Firstly, as with the Capricorn, you return to the event centre on Saturday so there is no need to carry camping equipment or food. Secondly, the weather at this time of year was considerably better than your average OMM. Lastly, the event was restricted to using rights of way only. This latter point makes a major difference: the navigation was simple, the course was much more runnable, and lastly, it meant that the route choice options were much more limited.

In the seven hours on Saturday, we ended up running 53km – considerably more than either of us had been expecting. This included an ascent of Waun Fach. Unfortunately, with Pen Cerig-calch effectively out-of-bounds it also meant that, with two hours to go, there was nothing for it but a long run back round the lanes and connecting footpaths, picking up a few checkpoints on the way. We finished the first day in second place. The winners were miles ahead of us (rumour has it that they ran a further 10km) but there was another mixed pair just behind us who we knew had been running faster than us.

The map had all of the available checkpoints for the weekend marked on it and, although it was only at the start of each day that you discovered the controls that were open and how much they were worth, there was still plenty of opportunity for route planning on Saturday night. In the end, we only made one small tweak to the route I had chosen, taking in Mynydd Troed at the beginning and returning to Mynydd Llangorse, where Christine’s Dad was stationed, towards the finish. With blisters from her new Inov-8s, Christine chose to wear road shoes on Sunday and wasn’t significantly disadvantaged. In contrast, my new Inov-8 Talon 212s didn’t give me any trouble despite only having worn them for half an hour before the event.

Rather embarrassingly, our attempt to avoid the Brecons over Easter backfired completely as there was a control within 50 metres of where we had parked the car at Llangorse Lake! It didn’t give us any advantage though with no option for canoeing across the lake! Christine’s knee started to give her some trouble with 1.5 of the 5 hours still to go but she soldiered on and, as we had time, was even persuaded to take in an extra control at the end. This brought our distance for the second day to nearly 35km, gave us a win for day 2 and confirmed our place as second overall and first mixed-pair.

Overall, a fun weekend although, as I say, quite different from the OMM. It was certainly family friendly with the children enjoying the organised walks and the mountain bike skills course laid on at the event centre. The Lite format has another couple of events in the south with the Chilterns and Surrey Hills but, even with the requirement to stick to the paths, I don’t think they can compete with being out on the open fells.

 

Easter Part II

Friday, April 21st, 2017

After the JK we headed over to Monmouth to spend a few days with Christine’s parents. The Tuesday was a lovely day and we stopped off at Westonbirt Arboretum on the way. Although a little pricey for a Forestry Commission venue there is plenty to see and we spent more time there than we had originally intended. As with, I suspect, most first-time visitors, we set off along the Treetop Walkway that takes you 13 metres up into the trees. As well as being a beautiful structure, it also has a mine of interesting information (most of which I’m afraid I immediately forgot).

After a picnic lunch, we continued around the Spring Trail which took us through the Cherry Glade to the Silk Wood barn where there was a selection of Easter activities on offer (and an opportunity to stock up on yet more chocolate!). After briefly checking out the play area next to the café (Emma was stretching the declared age range a little), we continued on into the Old Arboretum. As well as dog free zone, it also seemed to be largely toddler free which made for a much more peaceful walk than the first half.

On Wednesday we headed over to Llangorse Lake to meet up with Christine’s cousin, her family, and her extended family-in-law. We started with a walk around the lake where we temporarily lost a pair of shoes in the mud where the field had been under water just a week or two ago. Having returned to the cars for lunch, we then took to the water on an assortment of different boats (rowing plus one- and two-seater and Canadian canoes).

Christine headed off to a conference in Birmingham of the next two days and the rest of us had a quiet day around Monmouth on Thursday. We still managed to visit the Museum (an eclectic mix of Nelson and Rockfield Studios memorabilia) and Shire Hall both of which were firsts for me despite 20+ years of visiting the town. The latter is full of gruesome stories from its days as Assize Court.

On Friday I returned home with the children but we stopped off on in Gloucester on the way back with Christine’s parents. Emma hadn’t got her climbing fix at Llangorse so the kids went bouldering at The Warehouse. We then had our lunch down by the quays and wandered around the waterfront until our parking ran out.

Just two more days until everyone is back at work!

JK 2017

Monday, April 17th, 2017

We spent most of the Easter weekend south of London orienteering at the JK. We didn’t go to the sprint on Friday (quite frankly, it didn’t seem worth the high entry fee) so our first event was the medium race on Saturday on Ambersham Common. Christine went out first and had a respectable run finishing third on W40. I amused the children with the string course before we walked Emma to the start for her first W10B course. Unfortunately she took a wrong turn and missed out a control, something that Duncan didn’t repeat when he then ran the white course with Christine in tow (it was the same course as Emma’s). I had a scrappy start to my run, wasting a good couple of minutes on #7. Roger Goddard gave me a tow for a while until Geoff Ellis took him away. 12th place was set to become a recurring theme for the weekend.

Part of the draw for the weekend was a chance to catch up with friends over from the Czech Republic and we had a nice meal on the Saturday night. Sunday was the classic distance race and I had a long trek over to my start in St Leonard’s Forest. No major blunders this time but I don’t have the speed in the rough terrain as the course wound its way back on to the Holmbush map and I finished… 11th but still 12th over the two days! Emma took another wrong turn on her course but recovered successfully this time. She was still beaten by Duncan though who went out on his first course unaccompanied. Christine had another successful day in the forest and we stayed to watch her collect her 3rd prize.

There was just a string course for the children on Monday and Christine and I made up either end of a Men’s Short team. I was off first and was pleased to discover there were only seven finishers in front of me with second place under 90 seconds ahead. Dan put in a sterling effort for his first relay, holding on to 8th place. After Christine’s run we finished a respectable… 12th.

It was a fun weekend of orienteering and, probably most importantly, the children seemed to have enjoyed themselves and are looking forward to our summer orienteering holiday.

Barcelona Break

Monday, October 31st, 2016

BarcelonaIn general, we’re not very good at combining business trips with pleasure but at half term I was due to be in a conference in Madrid for the latter part of the week and Christine was about to start a new collaboration based in Barcelona so we decided to take the children over to Spain for a few days. Things didn’t get off to a great start with a three-hour delay on our Easyjet flight to Barcelona. To be fair, they did let us know of the delay before we left home and thankfully we’d already made arrangements for late arrival at our apartment.

On Sunday we took the metro to the Sagrada Familia, only to discover that it was sold out for the day. We therefore slowly made our way to Park Güell where we had booked in advance for a late afternoon entrance. Christine went off to the University on Monday whilst the children and I headed to the beach. Unfortunately you could barely see the beach for the mist, let alone the cable car across the harbour that we were intending to take. Luckily, as we waited to board the cable car the mist started to clear and by the time we arrived at Montjuïc the sun was out in force.

We spent some time in the Fort which became quite atmospheric when the mist rolled in again off the sea. Our walk down Plaza d’Espanya was cut short when Duncan failed to clear the large muddy puddle at the bottom of a very steep slide!

Christine was working again on Tuesday. Sadly the mist had turned to drizzle and I headed to the Museu Blau with the children (located dangerously close to the OpenStack summit that was kicking off that day!). For a very modern natural history museum, it seem to specialise in glass cases with large numbers of exhibits in them which wasn’t particularly child friendly. The visit was saved by the temporary National Geographic Spinosaurus exhibition.

In the afternoon, we headed back to the Sagrada Familia having booked our tickets in advance this time. The cathedral has gained a very impressive ceiling since I last entered the building about 10 years ago. Although the rain had stopped by this point, unfortunately the damp conditions meant that we weren’t permitted to ascend the towers.

Having handed the children over to Christine on a metro platform, I took the fast train to Madrid, arriving just in time for the speaker dinner. The rest of the family flew back to the UK the following morning.

Running Weekend

Sunday, October 16th, 2016

Christine XCIt’s been a weekend for running. On Saturday Christine ran at the first of this year’s Hampshire Cross-Country races at Farley Mount. I didn’t feel 100% when I woke up so decided to save myself for Sunday. Although I felt much better by the time the races came round it was probably still a wise decision (not least to reserve some energy for a barn dance in the evening!).

StringerOn Sunday it was Totton RC’s Stinger which meant a return to Ocknell. It had been raining heavily during the night and it was still going as we drove to the event. The sun had come out by the start so, although wet underfoot, it was actually quite warm.

Ocknell MudI was slightly alarmed to be in the lead for the first couple of miles but around the three mile mark, three runners made a move (although I’m puzzled because the results that were posted suggest four). Most of the next four miles were spent racing around the gravel tracks in the Inclosure. The first two runners started to pull away and I had to work hard to stay in contact with the third placed runner (or was it fourth?!). I started to make some ground as we left the tracks and worked our way back along the edge of the Inclosure but didn’t have the energy left to haul him in on the final climb up towards the finish (the sting).

Christine, meanwhile, had take the children for a walk through a marsh which meant they were covered in almost as much mud as me!

Elevation Profile
Speed Profile
20161016 Stinger

Ocknell Orienteering

Monday, October 10th, 2016

Saturday saw our second orienteering outing of the season, SOC’s event at Ocknell. We were running the children’s activity which, as it involved finding a randomly scattered selection of controls, didn’t involve too much in the preparation but seemed to be enjoyed by the kids nevertheless. My apologies go to the little girl who turned up at the end when we’d run out of prizes!

Pete Davis had put on an excellent set of courses – it’s just a shame there weren’t more people there to enjoy them. I ran the brown and, despite knowing the area well, still made a few errors of judgement. As RouteGadget shows, it took me a couple of controls to realise that straight was almost always best and, as 13 and 14 show, you have to be careful in amongst the gorse bushes around the old runway. Although the November Classic is on an adjacent area, sadly I don’t think these lessons will really help there!

Duncan @ 7

Tuesday, October 4th, 2016

Coco @ Duncan's BirthdayI’ve been telling people that my children are seven and nine for some months now but Duncan has now actually reached the first of these milestones. His party was this weekend and, having spent the past month or so engrossed in Asterix books, that was the theme of his party (despite most of his friends having no idea who Asterix is!). The class teddy was brought to the party and is featured here in his Obelix plaits. The other attendees seemed to prefer the lively party games that Christine had contrived, from hunt the Roman to newspaper snowball fights and stuffing the balloons in to Obelix’s XL thermal tights!

Duncan @ 7Shield CakeWhilst the internet is full of Asterix themed birthday cakes, I wasn’t keen to embark on the necessary sugar craft to recreate any of the characters. We eventually settled on a Roman shield – a job made easier by large quantities of coloured icing. We got away with just one cake this year as it was sufficiently large to last the couple of days until his actual birthday!

Duncan opening presentsDuncan’s doesn’t like to set his sights low and suggested two ideas for presents: a drone and a metal detector. He actually ended up with two of the latter although I don’t think either is going to allow him to find any Roman hoard. The drone was also probably not what he was expecting as it’s all of 2-inches across. First attempts suggest that there’s certainly some skill (that neither of us possessed) required to fly it!